Sunday Smatterings

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Happy Sunday! I hope this weekend’s missive finds you well.

To Do lists. They are both the glue that holds together my world, and the bane of my existence. Whenever anyone asks me to do something–professionally or personally–I open Wunderlist and pop it in. It gets a date. It goes onto the appropriate list. It, therefore, exists.

Wunderlist is my savior, my world. All of my assistants have worked in it. Every book, every project, has its own folder, plus weekly To Dos and upcoming lists, databases, etc. (all this dating back to 2012...) I even use it as a catch-all for concepts and projects I might do down the road. It is so ingrained into my workflow and life that I hardly ever thing about it. Until this week, when I got word that my beloved task manager was going away, and Microsoft To Do was taking over. Cue panic.

Y’all, I know I’m totally overkill on the organization side of things, as anyone who has worked with me can attest. There’s something so soothing about looking at my lists, plotting out tasks, matching them to my calendar, planning and planning and planning (sometimes to the detriment of my writing, I will admit.) Yes, I procrastinate by planning. It’s a thing.

So having to change this process is, for me, on par to packing up and moving to France with no notice, no job, no shelter, and no friends, and then being told I’m going scuba diving in the Seine without oxygen. It’s the kind of disruption that has a huge effect on me. And I am not a fan of mindless disruption.

When I heard of the change, I immediately looked at Microsoft To Do, and at first, it looked like a decent solution. While it’s easy to import things and looks pretty (though much too spread out for me – I need to see things at a glance and it’s a lot of white space and scrolling), it doesn’t have any communication or notification features, which means using it for a team is worthless. At least for now. I also tried ToDoist, but their importer won’t bring in all of my tasks, just the top level stuff. When I did the initial sync I saw upwards of 7500 line items importing, though many are archived. Seven years of to do lists is a LOT.

I’ve tried Asana and Trello in the past, but I’m not a Kanban board thinker. I’m going to take a glance at Things3 next, but learning an entirely new content management system seems… counterproductive. I do Bullet Journal this stuff too, and use a pared down Week Plan in my Day One app, just for good measure. Yes, I’m overdoing it. I like redundancies.

This is a serious situation, people. I HAVE to have my project management system work, and work well. It is the backbone of my business.

 Why, you might ask, are the words not the backbone of your business, JT? 

Well, they are. Without the words, without the books, none of this matters a whit. And I tell myself that every time I get wigged out about these things. The world will not end if I don’t have the tasks managed.

Ah... and now we hit the crux of it. I can focus on the words much easier if my tasks are neatly arrayed, emoji’d, color-coded, hashtagged, and in their appropriate spots. 

Some of my friends don’t need a clean office to write. When my inbox and desk are messy, it gives me hives. Same with my digital life. My desktop screen is empty. My folders are neatly labeled. There is a place for everything, and everything is in its place. And when they aren’t, the wheels start to come off.

This, my friends, is my OCD on full display, and why one of my main characters, Samantha Owens, also has OCD issues. I found her fascinating as a character because of this... I don’t want to say flaw, it’s far from a flaw. A detail, that’s all, in her life. But it’s one that runs so much of her personality, so much of her existence. And it’s adult-onset, which I think makes it that much worse, that much more frustrating for her. A woman who is so in control of everything suddenly unmoored makes for excellent writing fodder.

All this to say – when you’re developing characters, give them something that makes them unique. A private detective with a drinking problem is a trope, yes. But if the struggles of a character are something we can identify with, it makes them endearing, and human. You can find deeper issues to give them than over-drinking, if you look hard enough.

I will continue fighting with my systems until I find a new solution, and I will keep this advice in mind as I build my new characters. I think standalones are harder for these kinds of foibles. Each new set of characters needs their own set of unique details that make them come alive.

Something for me to ponder today. Character development, and really streamlining my To Dos.

Thanks for listening. Off to the links with you…


Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

A Precise Taxonomy of 64 Hairstyles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Probably the most fabulous thing you’ll read this week, and bonus: it’s written by an exceptionally talented Nashville author friend by the name of Lauren Thoman.

Sleep in a library at Naples' first book hotel. This looks and sounds amazing! What could be better, Italy and books.

An amateur sleuth helped authorities confirm the identities of the New Hampshire murder victims. More proof librarians are amazing.

On the Writing Life and Safeguarding Privacy. “In our era of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, notions of privacy are being shaped and reshaped by the hour, with some arguing that we live in a post-privacy world. The Internet yields all sorts of knowledge we are no better off for knowing.” An absolute need to read.

Misfits Market - Ugly and Imperfect Produce, Delivered To Your Door. What a great idea. I had no idea the produce had to look pretty to make it on the shelves. Amazing how much we waste.

5 Things I Want to See in the Talented Mr. Ripley TV Series. I am a fan, and this was super fascinating.

When James Your Baby Bat Is So Cute He Can Do Whatever He Wants. "James, you're supposed to be hanging!" OMG! 😮 Hat tip to my brother for this one…

Twist Endings, Librarian Stereotypes, and Nora Roberts Books as Projectiles. Great new series from Book Marks.

'There's no safety net': the plight of the midlist author. “I had got myself into that catch-22, where your sales figures aren’t as healthy as they once were or as good as retailers would like. So then your book comes out and it’s not stocked in as many places, so it doesn’t sell as well. Then you’re writing your next one and it won’t earn as much money, as they’re looking at what happened to the one before. You’re almost doomed to continue the pattern.”

We call this the law of diminishing returns, and I’ve experienced it too many times to count.

Review: Google Chrome has become surveillance software. It’s time to switch. This is getting ridiculous. I never cared for Chrome, thank heavens. But this surveillance state we’re living in gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Wine of the Week A delicious Bordeaux from The Wine Vixen…


What I’m Reading:

DEAR WIFE by Kimberly Belle

You’d have to have been under a rock not to see Kimberly’s new book out in the wild this week… Congrats, girl!

I loved this book so much! Subtle, insidious, clever... DEAR WIFE is spellbinding. I was hooked from the first page. You’re going to love Kimberly Belle’s latest outing. And you aren’t going to see it coming...which is the best kind of suspense!

What are you reading?


That’s all for now. Have a picnic in a park, wear a hat and don’t forget your sunscreen, mark a few things off that To Do list, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,
J.T.